By Eric Frazier, and Marisa Lopez-Rivera
Blog Summary from USA Today

Charitable giving by America’s biggest companies is expected to be flat this year, after a sharp rebound in 2010, according to a survey of 180 of the nation’s largest businesses by The Chronicle of Philanthropy and USA TODAY.

Cash giving rose 13% in 2010, after the recession caused a decline of 7.5% in 2009.

When companies add the value of product donations to their cash giving, the figures for 2010 look even stronger. Total giving rose nearly 20%. Seventy-four of the 107 companies surveyed in the Fortune 300 list of largest companies said they expect this year’s giving to remain about the same as last year. Twenty-seven expect total giving to increase, while six expect a decrease.

The findings reflect how the shaky economy is challenging grant makers, experts say.

Among the other findings:

•Cash donations totaled $4.9 billion last year, up 13% from 2009, according to figures provided by 113 companies.

•Wal-Mart’s $319.5 million in cash giving was higher than all other companies in the survey. Wal-Mart also is making a commitment in food and other non-cash gifts, pledging to provide $1.75 billion over five years to food banks and other organizations that provide groceries to the poor.

•Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, surged into second place by more than tripling its giving, to $315.4 million.

Other financial companies also posted notable increases as their profits rebounded last year.

Despite the sluggish recovery, eight companies reported increasing cash donations by more than 50%. The biggest increase was by Goldman Sachs, which came even as its pre-tax profits dropped 35%.

Other financial-services companies also increased their giving as they emerged from the banking world’s near-collapse.

•Citigroup giving rose 15.9% last year, and it expects to see its giving jump in 2011. “Citi and the rest of the financial industry are doing better,” says Pamela Flaherty, president of the Citi Foundation. “We’re feeling good about where we are and even better about the future.”

•JPMorgan Chase’s cash giving surged 77%, to $185 million, driven in large part by $42 million the bank committed toward helping groups that support charter schools and small-business development.

•Wells Fargo increased giving by 8.5% in 2010, and the bank’s $219 million total made it the third-most-generous cash donor. Still, that’s less than the $226 million the firm donated in 2008, the year it merged with Wachovia.

Wells Fargo predicts flat giving levels for 2011.

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